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2 L.A.-area mosques defaced by ‘Jesus’ graffiti, prompting hate crime investigation

Vandalism at Hawthorne mosques

Map shows approximate location of Hawthorne mosques that were vandalized.

(Los Angeles Times Graphics, MapBox, OpenStreetMap)

Two mosques in the South Bay were found vandalized with graffiti Sunday morning, and at one of the mosques authorities found what appeared to be a hand grenade, prompting the arrival of a bomb squad.

The hand grenade turned out to be a replica, but the two incidents are being classified as hate crimes and are under investigation by the Hawthorne Police Department and the FBI, according to statements released by both agencies.

The vandalism acts at the two mosques are two of several incidents over the last two weeks that are being investigated as hate crimes, possibly as retribution for the Dec. 2 attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. That rampage, which killed 14, was carried out by a pair of shooters who were apparently inspired by Islamic extremism. The shooters died in a showdown with police hours later.

Police were called to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque about 6:30 a.m.

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Officers found “Jesus” spray-painted in white along the front fence of the property, located in the 13200 block of Prairie Avenue, according to Hawthorne police. An apparent hand grenade was found in the driveway.

A bomb squad from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded and later concluded the grenade was a plastic replica and posed no danger, police said.

Officers were also called to a second mosque, the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, where “Jesus is the way” was found painted on the front of the building, police said.

FBI agents responded to both locations, and the agency is assisting Hawthorne police detectives, who are leading the investigation.

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A 23-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of a hate crime and arson after a fire broke out earlier in the day at a Coachella Valley mosque. No one was injured in the fire, but the 1,800-square-foot mosque sustained smoke damage, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ offices in Santa Clara and Washington were evacuated Thursday after the buildings received threatening letters with a powdery substance, said Ojaala Ahmad, a spokeswoman for the council’s Los Angeles branch.

In Philadelphia, a mosque caretaker found a pig’s head on the doorstep of the building, prompting a police investigation.

And “ISIS” was spray-painted onto a truck parked outside an Orange County Sikh temple. The Sikh community is sometimes targeted in anti-Islamic attacks because people mistake members’ dress and grooming for that of Muslims.

The vandalism in Hawthorne came one day after city leaders, including Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager, had an interfaith rally that was jointly hosted by the Islamic Center of Hawthorne and a local Catholic parish, police said.

Anyone with information regarding the incidents in Hawthorne is asked to contact police at (800) 222-8477.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno


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